NoDaddy In Review (& How I Trolled Back)

2012-01-21

Background

I’m sure anyone reading this is aware of SOPA and PIPA by now. At the end of December 2011, the Internet came out in complaint that GoDaddy, a popular but controversial registrar and webhost, supported SOPA.

Enter NoDaddy:

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As Drew Olanoff of The Next Web [writes]([http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/12/23/nodaddy-lets-you-pledge-to-boycott-go-daddy-for-its-stance-on-sopa/],](http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/12/23/nodaddy-lets-you-pledge-to-boycott-go-daddy-for-its-stance-on-sopa/%5D,) he “was talking to Ben Huh and Ben suggested in jest that someone come up with a counter to track everyone who is pledging to leave Go Daddy.” So, I opened a new desktop, my favorite editor, and got started.

The setup was easy because I already had a sandbox in place called Rawr, where I host things like my @episod Tracker, so all I had to do was add a new Django app. The goal was to make the page as simple as possible, so I gave a brief background, a pledge form, and a total count of customers that GoDaddy stood to lose by their support of SOPA.

To drive home that these are real people that GoDaddy was hurting, there was also a random selection (inclusion optional) of people’s profile pictures from Gravatar.

Trolls?

Drew requested in his post that I add a domain count so that people could optionally include the number of domains that they pledged to transfer from GoDaddy. This was a great idea because, for some companies, numbers are necessary to call them to action, and this would certainly help convey economic incentive. However, I was worried that people would troll this by inputting large, false amounts, which would invalidate the overall message.

Still, the audience was limited enough and driven by a common cause, and it was indeed a good idea, so I decided to give it a shot and added the domain count. People that had already pledged could resubmit the form using their same email address and it would update the domain count without inflating the total number of customers.

Although it was difficult to be certain if someone padded their input at all, I paid close attention to the pledges and for the most part–and frankly, to my surprise–everyone was quite honest. Unfortunately, by the close of the night, I did have one fairly dedicated troll. Thankfully, this troll was extremely consistent in using the same large input number, so deleting became easy (albeit irritating since it was getting late).

By the next morning, after waking up to delete their overnight troll, I had an idea.

Troll Back

The only (fun) way to fight trolls is to troll back, and it’s important to be subtle lest they find a workaround. So, I modified the pledge code so that if the domain count was over what I considered to be a reasonable threshold I would set a cookie in their browser representing the number of domains they pledged. With support for multiple pledges (in case they tried many email addresses), they would see the results of their trolling, but no one else would.

This method was amazingly effective as I noticed no trolls slipping through. My only regret is that I didn’t separately track the submissions that were marked as a troll (they were never saved to the database). I would love to know just how many attempts I trapped.

Spoils

Although I didn’t keep track of all trapped trolls, I did find one little gem on Twitter: a tweet (picture too!) by Carter Cole about his successful trolling of the afternoon wherein he pledged to transfer 10 billion domains.

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The setup was successful, though. Carter seemed to be proud of his accomplishment, but it never made it to anyone else’s screen and therefore didn’t hurt the integrity of NoDaddy’s message.

Conclusion

Overall, I am extremely proud of the pledge site. I’m thankful to Ben and Drew for the idea because it helped unite those against GoDaddy and show a common, strong force. I am also impressed by and thankful to the community for their mature response: I only noticed a handful of abuses out of 658 total pledges, and they were dealt with swiftly to minimize impact.

Thank you everyone for helping make NoDaddy successful and working with me in battling back SOPA and any company that supports such legislation.

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michael schade

I built out engineering and operations teams at Stripe as employee #20 from 2012 to 2019; now I'm working on something new. I like helping people, photography, reading, gym, traveling, and learning new things. Say hi! 🏳️‍🌈